CatsEyes Aerial Photography

AF Vehicle blog — June 25, 2016

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In Internet Research Hell

I do not particularly enjoy the beginning phases of a project such as this one, comprising as it does a lot of Internet research and a steep learning curve. For some reason, this one seems particularly bad in that I have yet to find any good explanations that describe exactly what an autopilot does, and what you need to make it work. I will pick it up as I go along, of course, but I don't enjoy that "lost at sea" feeling I get when I read a web page and don't know half the references or understand in any fundamental way what they're talking about.

Anyway, enough of the rant...

More Autopilot Systems

The list is growing! I had originally identified 5 autopilot systems based on a cursory perusal of Wikipedia articles. I also came across several more on the on the Q Ground Control site:

  1. UAVDevBoard/Gentlenav/MatrixPilot
  2. SmartAP AutoPilot
  3. Parrot AR.Drone 2.0
  4. AutoQuad 6 Autopilot

This in addition to the 5 identified previously (listed here for completeness):

  1. LibrePilot (based on the now-defunct OpenPilot)
  2. PX4 Autopilot
  3. ArduPilot Autopilot Suite
  4. Paparazzi UAV
  5. SLUGS (Santa Cruz Low-cost UAV GNC System)

That said, I am leaning toward the PX4 Autopilot, and for hardware, at least initially, the new PixRacer V1. This is (apparently) based on the Pixhawk, but somewhat scaled down and updated.

My thinking is thus. At some point (i.e. this winter), I will probably be designing and building a dedicated AF aircraft, incorporating my "wish list" of features. At that point, they will probably have come out with an updated Pixhawk.

For now, however, in order to gain some much-needed knowledge and experience, I am thinking of using the PixRacer in an existing airframe.

But which one?

Test Airframe?

Looking around my "workshop" I find the following planes that are either airworthy or can be made so with a little work.

I guess the first question is, as always, "can it carry a camera?" (I see little point in this exercise if it can't take aerial photos!) This rules out the Terry (though it once did carry a very small, lightweight camera!), the Magpie, and probably the Spectra. The Spectra is certainly big enough and has sufficient payload capacity for a camera, but it was not really designed for any sort of customization. It would be a bit of work to add a camera, would look like the kludge that it would be.

The Cat's Eye 1 could probably be retrofitted for AF, but there's not a lot of extra room for the additional electronics and sensors. Also I think I would rather keep it operational, just to have one airworthy and ready-to-fly plane around (with a camera).

The leaves the Getter and the Cat's Eye 2. Both I think would make great test platforms. They are both large-ish and have plenty of room for any additional electronics, sensors, etc. I know the Getter flies well. The Cat's Eye 2 is more modular and would probably accommodate modifications much more easily. However, it would be a bit more work to get it ready, as the existing control systems would have to be replaced, and a new camera mount designed and built. I would also get rid of that silly one-wheel landing gear (seemed clever at the time). Also, since I have yet to fly it, I don't know what kind of flight characteristics it might have.

Of course, it's not necessarily either-or. I could start to think about getting them both ready and see where it goes. It's nice to have choices and there's no point in cutting one or the other off at this early stage.

AF Vehicle blog — June 25, 2016

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